Thu, Sep
5 minutes reading time (951 words)

Warren Miller: I Call It Memorabilia

Endurance in Antarctica

On the wall over my drawing board, beside my desk in my office in our home, on the side of a ski hill, 100 feet from the chair lift, hangs lots of memorabilia. Each of these conjures up images of stuff that I have done or photos of faraway places that I would like to have visited when I was a lot younger and stronger.

One is a large poster of Gary Lopez at the Pipeline in Hawaii riding a wave that is over three times as tall as he is. It brings back a lot of memories of getting smashed by what I used to think were big waves. In the early 1940s, the waves we rode were no where near that big but, never-the-less, we got smashed and pummeled in 50 degree water long before wet suits and light surfboards were invented. 

I often look up at that photo and wish the light surfboard had been invented 25 years earlier. However, we had some good deals because there were some days at Malibu when I was the only surfer riding waves on a nice, shoulder high, wave day.

Alongside that photo are two photos that were sent to me from an Army Air Force pilot who flies a C-147 to the South Pole. He brings a gigantic load of supplies to the South Pole Station; on the return trip the plane is completely full of trash. 

I have no idea where that trash ends up, but it’s somewhere in New Zealand in an Antarctic landfill, I guess. He sent the great photos to me because when he was a youngster in Vermont, he was taken to one of my ski movies in the late 1970s and it changed the direction he chose for his life. 

I really appreciate it when I know I changed someone’s life with one or more of my many ski movies. In one of the photos he is standing at the South Pole and an American flag is waving in the wind. He also sent Laurie and me that South Pole flag that flies on a tall pole in front of our house on Orcas Island. We are proud and grateful to fly that flag.

Alongside that photo is one of the gigantic C-147 cargo plane blasting off from the Antarctic glacier for its return trip to New Zealand full of garbage and then on to Boston.

On that same wall is a bit of memorabilia of my own: one of the original posters from my first 16mm ski film, “Deep and Light.” It was first shown in Pasadena and we charged $1 to see it. In those days there was still a 10 percent entertainment tax on any ticket that cost over $1. 

It was the start of 55 consecutive, feature-length ski films that I enjoyed every minute of producing. What’s not to like about traveling the world taking the pictures, then reliving them all summer while I was editing them and then showing the movie in the fall. While I was doing that I earned enough money to raise my three kids and put them through college. 

Also on the wall is a photograph of Ernest Shackleton who tried to traverse the Antarctic Continent in 1914 but his ship Endurance got ice bound. He and his men spent the next two years on an ice flow after their ship was crushed and sunk by the Antarctic ice. You have to read the book of the expedition because it is the greatest survival story in the history of Antarctic or Arctic exploration. 

I am proud of that photo of Shackleton because it also includes his autograph and was sent to me by a rare document broker in Wellesley, Mass., as a present for my seventieth birthday.

In the middle of all of this stuff hangs a photo taken from a space vehicle as it flew 200 miles above our Montana home on one of its trips around the world every hour and a half. 

About six years ago I received a phone all from the Johnson Space Center in Texas and the lady said, “Captain Phillips would like to talk with you.” I said, “Put him on.”

“I can’t. He is up in the space station. He has a half a dozen of your ski videos with him and he has been up there four months and is bored. He told me that he grew upon your ski movies.” 

We made arrangements to talk when the space capsule flew right over Seattle and what do you say to someone on the world’s most expensive, long distance phone call? Even though it is only 22,000 miles away.

Captain Phillips skied with us in Montana later that winter and gave Laurie and myself that photo of our house that he personally took when he flew over Big Sky.

My best treasure, however, is a hunting knife that was forged from a piece of the cable that was a part of the first chairlift ever built in the world. It hauled skiers up Dollar Mountain in Sun Valley from 1936 until 1949 and was moved to Boyne Mountain, Mich., where it did the same thing until 1990. 

Some of these treasures will find a permanent home in the new Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky that is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012. Come visit us and see them. Better still, buy one of the theatre seats with your name on it. For more information about the new theater in the great Ophir School in Big Sky, contact them at 406-995-4281.

(Learn about for the Warren Miller Freedom Foundation.) 

Photo: Endurance Courtesy coolantarctica.com


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